My precious friend Mary Ellen celebrated her one-year divorce anniversary on Monday. She posted on her blog about it. Woo hoo! Ce-le-brate!
I know, I know. That sounds crazy. But when someone has been in bondage for years, struggled to recover her life, and God is clearly leading, it actually is a celebration. I walked through some of this with her, and it was torment. Listen to this from her post.
“One of the most telling responses to my divorce was how EV-ERY-ONE said, “Wow you look SO happy!” Everyone. My closest and dearest friends who NEVER encouraged divorce while I was married, and tried for YEARS with me to come up with solutions, troubleshooting, reaching for ways to make it work, praying for me – in fact, for a whole YEAR I had a group of about 8 women who committed to pray for my marriage to be saved. BUT solutions in a marriage take two. One partner can’t save a marriage.”
She speaks a truth many in the church are terrified to embrace. She goes on.
“The most difficult thing for me to reconcile was that I had been taught that you just don’t get a divorce. God hates divorce. And I believed it. It took years of counseling, studying and finally God’s intervention, for me to decide.”
Then she quoted from an outstanding article in Christianity Today that there are more reasons to divorce than just sexual immorality. Listen to this.
“Jesus wasn’t rejecting the Old Testament—he was rejecting a faulty Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament. He defended the true meaning of Deuteronomy 24:1. And there is one other surprising thing he didn’t reject: Jesus didn’t reject the other ground for divorce in the Old Testament, which all Jews accepted.
“Although the church forgot the other cause for divorce (over time), every Jew in Jesus’ day knew about Exodus 21:10-11, which allowed divorce for neglect. Before rabbis introduced the “any cause” divorce, this was probably the most common type. Exodus says that everyone, even a slave wife, had three rights within marriage—the rights to food, clothing, and love. If these were neglected, the wronged spouse had the right to seek freedom from that marriage. Even women could, and did, get divorces for neglect—though the man still had to write out the divorce certificate. Rabbis said he had to do it voluntarily, so if he resisted, the courts had him beaten till he volunteered!
“These three rights became the basis of Jewish marriage vows—we find them listed in marriage certificates discovered near the Dead Sea. In later Jewish and Christian marriages, the language became more formal, such as “love, honor, and keep.” These vows, together with a vow of sexual faithfulness, have always been the basis for marriage. Thus, the vows we make when we marry correspond directly to the biblical grounds for divorce…..Anyone who was neglected, in terms of emotional support or physical support, could legally claim a divorce.
“Putting all this together gives us a clear and consistent set of rules for divorce and remarriage. Divorce is only allowed for a limited number of grounds that are found in the Old Testament and affirmed in the New Testament:
~Adultery (in Deuteronomy 24:1, affirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19)
~Emotional and physical neglect (in Exodus 21:10-11, affirmed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7)
~Abandonment and abuse (included in neglect, as affirmed in 1 Corinthians 7)”
People, to bind someone in a dead or abusive marriage goes against the heart of God more than divorce does. This is clear to see in Malachi 2, which includes the famous verse, “God hates divorce.” That verse, as all others, is not in a vacuum, but it expresses God’s anger at his people for wantonly divorcing their wives and leaving them (back in the day) with no means of support or remarrriage. These women became social rejects. That’s why the passage also says, “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty.” (How often do you hear that part quoted?)
Do you understand the impact here? Countless, countless spouses have been stuck in loveless, abusive, neglectful marriages because they were told they were not allowed to get a divorce — but it was all a misinterpretation. Countless broken hearts, broken spirits, broken lives.
A narrow interpretation of any verse out of context is simply deadly. Only if we look at the heart of God, over the expanse of time, can we clearly see his intent and correctly interpret verses.
So what about the LGBTQ issue? I have seen God’s heart. He did not create people with a different orientation, then tell them they have to change or not act on it. He didn’t. That is not the truth about God – it is not the God Jesus showed us.